Louisville men's soccer kicked off their NCAA Tournament run in impressive fashion Sunday night at Lynn Stadium with a 2-1 victory over St. Louis. As we hinted at here on the game's preview last week, freshman Tim Kubel had a major impact on the game and scored the decisive goal in the 87th minute. It's safe to say that the prediction that the young German would have a significant impact in the NCAA Tournament has already been validated, as he had a hand in both Cardinal goals on the night. Kubel will get GOTG honors, which we'll wrap up at the end of the post.
Before Kubel could net the game-winner with just minutes left in the game, Louisville had to battle back after going down a goal in the 67th minute. They did so quickly, as Andrew Brody answered in the 71st minute when he deposited a wonderful crossing ball whipped in by, you guessed it, Kubel.
As you'll see in the highlights and the box score, Louisville had the slight advantage in chances, and in the end they made the most of it. With sloppy weather and a talented Billiken team involved, it wasn't surprising that the game was a battle that required Louisville to work hard to earn chances. They knew St. Louis would try to be physical and disruptive (SLU racked up four yellow cards to Louisville's one) and were equal to that part of the challenge, which was a huge key to the victory.
Neutralizing St. Louis' physicality allowed Louisville to play their game, which is something Brody and Kubel spoke to after the game. The Cards pressed forward with the same guiding principles that they've always played with, and their technical and individual ability led to the second goal.
Ben Strong's final ball through the back line that found Kubel and allowed him to work his way to the winning goal was about as good as it gets, and it cut through a considerable amount of traffic. Louisville didn't really have favorable numbers at any point in the build up, as St. Louis effectively had five defenders on their back line and four midfielders in front of them before the goal. Still, in true Louisville fashion, their ability and precision carried the day. It was a great way to start the tournament.
Now, it's time to take a spin around the rest of the bracket and see what Louisville's road looks like now. Yes, this is the part where we look way too far ahead again. It worked last week and we're not the ones on the field, so why not do it again? Make sure you're sitting down for this...
When Louisville takes a look at how the bracket has changed after Sunday's games, they're going to like what they see. The first point of interest here is obviously who the Cards will play next, which will be the UMBC Retrievers. You may have just said something to the effect of...
"Wait, the UMBC Retrievers?(!)"
Yes, the UMBC Retrievers, who knocked off fourth-seeded Maryland in College Park 1-0. Because Louisville is the seeded team, they will host UMBC next Sunday night at 6 p.m., which is absolutely huge. Obviously, it's nice to not have to play Maryland again, but to have a Sweet 16 game at home is what really matters.
The weather for the St. Louis game understandably held some people back, so hopefully the long-term forecast for this upcoming Sunday will change. Ken Lolla and his players both pointed to the vocal fan support as something that helped to propel them to victory, so hopefully the weather will be a bit more palatable next weekend.
Speaking of long-term forecasts, the long-term bracket gets even better for Louisville, as fifth-seeded Indiana also fell in the second round. If Louisville beats UMBC, they'll play the winner of 12th-seeded Creighton and unseeded Xavier. Obviously, we'll be pulling for Xavier, because a home game in the Elite Eight for a chance to go to the College Cup would be a beautiful thing.
In summary, Louisville won a tough game against a tough team with some legitimate pro prospects in St. Louis. Now, they'll stay at home this week and turn their attention to UMBC, who will certainly bring a formidable challenge if they beat Maryland in their own stadium. We'll talk again mid-week about the matchup and preview the Retrievers a bit more then.
For now, take a moment to come down from another great weekend in Cardinal athletics. Finally, take a look at the updated Goal of the Game standings. The gridlock at the top has been broken for now.
T2. Ben Strong - 2 GOTGs (Game 11 at Notre Dame, Game 12 vs. FGCU)
T2. Ricardo Velazco - 2 GOTGs (ACC Semi vs. Syracuse, ACC Final vs. Clemson)
T2. Andrew Brody - 2 GOTGs (Game 1 vs. Maryland, Game 14 vs. Evansville)
T3. Daniel Keller - 1 GOTG (Game 7 vs. Pitt)
T3. Will Vitalis - 1 GOTG (Game 4 vs. Duke)
T3. Nolan Moore - 1 GOTG (Game 5 at B.C.)
T3. Jerry Ramirez - 1 GOTG (Game 13 vs. Syracuse)
T3. Ivan Gutierrez - 1 GOTG (ACC Quarters at UNC)
Tim Kubel is the man, man.